Hey Fabulous People,
How’s your fierce living going?
We just got done with the second week of the NHMC TV Writers Program filled with beat sheets and outlines. A beat sheet entails roughly 1 line per scene (22 beats for a half hour comedy), and an outline details each beat in paragraph form. We each brought in 1 or 2 drafts of our beat sheets and outlines and had the opportunity to give each other notes, just like Week 1 with our concept sheets/treatments.
In addition, NHMC TV Writers Program alumni and current working writers, along with a development executive, visited us to share some gems.
Guest 1: Fredrick Kotto
Fredrick has written on NBC’s Chicago PD and Freeform’s Guilt and currently writes for Ice. Fredrick had an incredible ability to tell a great story. When he told us about himself, he didn’t just say, “X happened to me.” He brought us into his world and had at the edge of ours seats. The big takeaway from him was that we should always be ready to tell a story about ourselves. The way we tell the story should keep people at the edge of their seats or laughing and will instill confidence in the executive on the other side that we’re not just great writers on paper but compelling storytellers in person.
Guest 2: Emilia Serrano
Emilia has written on several shows including Cristela and Jane the Virgin. Most recently, she wrote for the Comedy Get Down, which she described as the most fun room she’s ever been in. To navigate the Comedy Get Down room full of comedians, she identified exactly where a joke was needed to heighten the story, and a comedian was already ready to pitch jokes on the fly in response to her suggestion. This sort of give and take helped move the story forward. The take away here? Know where you fit in and be consistently reliable in that role.
Guest 3: Gina Reyes
Gina Reyes is an industry veteran who currently serves as the Director of Content Development for Univision’s Storyhouse and previously directed the Fox Writers and Directors Labs. As someone who listens to pitches regularly, she strongly suggests being able to deliver the twenty minute pitch without visuals. While some executives may not have a preference, if you arrive to a pitch meeting for an executive who does not want visuals, you don’t want to be in a position where you’re unable to speak without them. The take away? Always be prepared to tell your story without prompts.
Guest 4: Sierra Ornelas
Currently a Co-Executive Producer on NBC’s Superstore, Sierra’s written for some really hilarious shows: Happy Endings, Selfie, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Attributing this analogy to a mentor, Sierra described a show as a painting and each writer a specific paint color. Each writer should only paint when their color is needed. That is, if you’re the joke person and a joke is needed, that’s when you speak. If you’re great at story and story pitches are needed, that’s when you speak. Learning what you’re great at and developing that skill will help you create a space for yourself within the writer’s room. As you continue to go up the ranks in the writer’s room, you get better at the other areas, but start with your strength first. The take away? Find your paint color.
After a week of advice from these former NHMC greats (and lots of outlining), we’re off to write our pilots!